Friday, May 11, 2012

Back on the Windward Again

Look at all the protective inner and outer reefs you can tuck behind on the windward side of Martinique

Breakers on the reef are good indicators of the channel edge
We had heard from several people about how nice the windward side (east coast) of Martinique was, and if you’ve read our previous blogs, you know that we like windward sides for their reefs and isolation—no masses of charter boats like you find in and around the major leeward anchorages.  So around we went.  Spring seems to be a good time to go; the velocity of the tradewinds has decreased from its winter highs, so you don’t have to fight through opposing winds and high seas. In fact, we had quite a pleasant sail over, only motoring once we got behind the reefs, since we didn’t know the area and wanted the extra maneuverability. Our Doyle cruising guide doesn’t cover this area, instead recommending a Martinique-specific guide, available in either French or English. We checked several chandleries for the book, finally finding it at the Clipper Ship in Marin. Unfortunately, they only had the French version, which we were ready to go with except that the price was 57 euros, more than $70 US. That’s pretty steep for a skinny book that we couldn’t read without an English-French dictionary. We ended up using just the charts we had, which we discovered were pretty accurate. The reefs are distinct, with deep channels between them, and with careful visual piloting, we had no problem. A couple of strategic areas, like the southern entrance behind the reefs, actually had honest-to-goodness aids to navigation, which are few and far between in the islands. The interesting thing about this area was that, although it looks completely open between you and the open ocean, the overlapping ranks of reefs break the seas so well that the anchorages are quite calm. You do get a bit of wind-driven chop if the winds are up, but the fetch is minimal, so it doesn’t amount to much. All in all, quite lovely. I’ll give more details about our time here in future blogs.
Real channel markers! A rarity down here.

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